Sasahara takes first race of F3 Asia season, with Jack Doohan in processional second
Absolute Racing’s Daniel Cao was unable to capitalise on his pole position in the opening race of the 2019 F3 Asian Championship season in Sepang, with second- and third-place starters Ukyo Sasahara and Australian Jack Doohan swamping him off the start.
The Chinese driver said a poor warm-up lap contributed to his poor start:
My start was not so good because on the warm-up lap, I didn’t get the tyre temperature. So, at the start I dropped position to third. In a 30-minute race, to attack when our race pace is almost the same, it’s hard to catch them.
Sasahara, driving for Hitech GP, pulled ahead early, and Doohan kept chase as the two drew away from the chasing pack. Jamie Chadwick started on the second row in fourth next to Doohan, but lost ground and fell into the sparring midfield.
The field quickly dispersed, with the closest battle of the opening laps between Australian Thomas Smith and Ireland’s Jordan Dempsey capturing most of the crowd’s attention. Dempsey would come out on top, finishing in tenth for Pinnacle Motorsport, while his teammate Smith ended the race in twelfth.
The processional race threatened to become interesting around twenty minutes in, with the battle for the lead in the Masters category leading to a collision between Tairoku Yamaguchi and Thomas Luedi. Yamaguchi stopped on track with a damaged left rear, while Luedi retired to the pits. Yamaguchi was later awarded a three grid place penalty for his role in the contact.
Doohan matched Sasahara on pace throughout the race, but was unable to close the gap to anything less than two seconds. Sasahara sailed to victory with a final 2.5 second lead and the fastest lap of the race, describing it as an unexpected victory:
To be honest I didn’t expect that because in practice I wasn’t really sure about that, but I managed a good start. I was happy to be first straight away because then I could manage the gap. I don’t feel any strange feeling [with an unfamiliar car].
Doohan finished second, with polesitter Cao in third. Doohan remarked that he was unhappy with his overall pace, but happy to build on the result using the data from his teammate’s win:
I didn’t think I was completely happy with how the overall pace was, but luckily I’ve got Ukyo on my team so we’ll be able to analyze where I was losing and try and build on that in Race 2 and 3.
Kiwi Brendon Leitch finished in fourth for BlackArts Racing.